How does human behavior drive epidemics?
The evidence is undeniable. Human behavior is a key factor in zoonotic events – when a disease jumps from animals to humans – as well as the subsequent person-to-person transmission of the disease. From Zika to Ebola and now COVID-19, human behavior at the individual, social, structural and policy levels influences the trajectory of an epidemic.
The concept of One Health takes into account that humans, plants, and animals share the environment in a way that can reinforce or undermine the health of each. Just as human behavior drives epidemics – it can end them too.
Behavioral research can help us fight back.
Human behavior is complex. Understanding why people do what they do before and during a pandemic equips governments and public health professionals to protect communities. A clear understanding of behavioral drivers can inform social and behavior change interventions for risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) that help prevent diseases from crossing over from animals and stop outbreaks before they become epidemics. Exploring drivers of behavior requires well-tested research approaches.